No military solution to Kashmir issue, says info minister


–Fawad says ‘armies cannot conquer narrative of the heart’, Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir not inspired by region’s ‘beauty’


ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Friday called on the Indian government to adopt a realistic attitude and accept that there is no military solution to the Kashmir issue.

He was addressing an All Parties Parliamentary Kashmir Group seminar in Islamabad.

“[Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi just announced that [his government] will give a package of billions of rupees to [Indian Occupied] Kashmir,” he said, adding that “independence cannot be bought with money. Independence is a sentiment felt in the heart, a narrative of the heart”.

The information minister said that allegations against Pakistan of instigating unrest in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) were baseless and the Indian government had only adopted this stance because it was unable to crush the struggle for freedom in the region.

He urged Indian authorities to realise that “armies cannot conquer the narrative of the heart”. He also stated that Pakistan’s stance on IoK was not inspired by the “beauty of Kashmir”.

“We don’t want IoK because it is so beautiful and scenic; we don’t view the Kashmir dispute in terms of land. We view the dispute through the lens of humanity. Its residents are a part of us. When they are hurt, we too feel the pain,” he said.

“Kashmiri leader Umar Farooq told me that political parties contesting elections in Kashmir knew that if they adopted an anti-Pakistan narrative, their voter base would alienate them,” he said.

Quoting author Arundhati Roy, Chaudhry said, “The time when India controlled Kashmir is long gone; now the narrative of Kashmir dominates India.”

The minister emphasised that it remains in the interest of the region that both India and Pakistan improve their relations with each other. “Everyone will benefit from peace,” he said, adding that this would lead to trade and an improved economy in both the countries.

He also pointed out that the Indian government’s refusal to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference if it was hosted by Pakistan was only making things worse.

The information minister said that SAARC was suffering due to Delhi’s position on the matter.

“As soon as Indian authorities and intellectuals realise that they will have to adopt a realistic approach towards the Kashmir issue and that it needs to be solved, we can move forward.

Earlier, India turned down Pakistan’s invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the SAARC summit once again, saying the “bilateral talks are linked with curbing terrorism, not Kartarpur corridor”.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi will not be travelling to Pakistan for the summit; though she appreciated the decision to open the corridor.

Brushing off any possibility of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, the minister said, “Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in the summit,” she asserted.

The fate of the 19th SAARC summit, that was supposed to be convened in 2016, remains in limbo following India’s refusal to join it over Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Uri attack. India’s decision was followed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan expressing their “inability” to attend.